Inspired by one retailer’s question, RN went in search of the future of convenience. Here, Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski and Max Liu talk to retailers about their planned developments and innovations for 2018.

Christine Hope, Hopes of Longtown, Longtown 

We’re trying to become a destination retailer, as our location is rural and we need to offer customers extra reasons to come to us. We’re developing a couple of buildings next to the shop with a view to having commercial tenants – a bakery/café and antiques shop – ideally by 2019. We want the site to be an attractive destination. I’d call this a ‘listening phase’ for us, when we’re asking customers and staff to tell us what we need to offer, and asking ourselves fundamental questions: Why would people come to us? What would they need? What would they buy from us?

Baz Jethwa, Costcutter, Bolton 

Food to go is still going strong and my next innovation will be an extension of that. From January 2018, we will introduce our business-to-business strategy. We want to start supplying local businesses with food. So if, for example, there’s a big meeting at a local office we can provide the sandwiches. We can give them hot food too – pastries, burgers, whatever they want. We’re deciding how to market this new service, whether it’s through flyers, phone calls or through social media. We want to get the word out and become the go-to food supplier for local businesses.   

Elfed Roberts, Spar Nefyn, Gwynedd 

The electronic shelf labelling system, which we got from Market Hub, has been the big recent innovation in my store and I want to build on using this. Whereas before staff had to go around changing prices manually, now the prices change electronically. This is particularly useful on a Thursday when a promotion begins. The prices are all connected to a data bank which gives me valuable information about our sales and gives me the correct margins for each product. Electronic labelling means accuracy. The price on the shelf is always the same as the price at the till, waste is reduced and labour is saved. 

Sandeep Bains, Simply Fresh, Faversham

The big thing we want to introduce is online ordering. We’re thinking about people who might get home from work and not have time to go to the shop. They could place their order with us and we’d have it to them in 10 minutes – much quicker than the supermarkets. To provide this service we need to install the platform and set up the technology. That’s something we’re working on and, slowly but surely, we’re getting there. It could be something we introduce in 2018.  

Eddie Poole, Poole’s Supervalu, Dromore

When my son got married in Italy, I was amazed by the quality of the gelato. It was leagues apart from any other ice cream, I had ever eaten. My son has been learning Italian for five years and, in March 2018, he’s going to Bologna to take a week-long course in gelato-making. He’s going to learn how to make it from scratch, the authentic Italian way. After that, we’ll start selling his gelato in the store. We’ll begin with the basic flavours – vanilla, strawberry, chocolate – then expand the range and become more adventurous.  

Paul Mather, Sherston Post Office & Store, Malmesbury

A farm shop recently closed in our area, so there’s an opportunity to expand our fresh fruit and veg, and chilled meat. We hope to cater to the farm shop’s former customers, so I’ve told staff that, when somebody new comes in, they should explain we can order anything in quickly. We’re trying to maximise our presence by expanding our range, not necessarily by innovating, but by doing the traditional things better. We are trying to anticipate new customers’ needs, so we’ve put out a suggestions box and, as Christmas approaches, we’re distributing fliers with an order sheet.

Sunder Sandher, One Stop working with Royals, Leamington Spa 

Since I started working with Deliveroo this year, I’ve been surprised by how much customers will pay for quick delivery. For example, with a bottle of wine that costs £10 in my shop, a customer can have it delivered for £20. Of that, Deliveroo takes 30%, which means I make £4 on top of the £10 shop price. In future, I want to cater to private parties. If somebody is throwing a party, and they run out of food or drink, we can get fresh supplies to them within 15 to 20 minutes. The supermarkets won’t do that, so I see an opportunity.

Read more in this series over the coming days.

In the meantime, let us know how your big ideas for 2018 in the Comments section below.